A group of local business owners in Bozeman has filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city has failed to enforce its own laws concerning urban camping, and it's causing a range of issues. The lawsuit outlines several claims, including threats to employees, vandalism, environmental concerns like garbage and human waste, and more, all stemming from the growing population of urban campers.
Growing Concerns Unaddressed
The local business owners behind the lawsuit have expressed their frustration, emphasizing that their pleas for help have gone unanswered. They've reported instances of loitering, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, public inebriation, public urination, defecation, drug use, domestic violence, and obstructions of publicly owned rights of way.
Plaintiffs and Their Demands
Among the plaintiffs are well-known businesses like Kenyon Noble Lumber Company, Olsson Investments, and Rapid Car Wash, along with individuals like Mike Hope, who owns the Aspen Crossing building and the Rocking R Bar in Bozeman.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Brian Gallik and Susan Swimley, calls for the city to relocate the urban encampments to safer and healthier locations, submitting a detailed plan with deadlines and action items to ensure the well-being of those in the encampments.
Not Seeking Monetary Damages
Importantly, the plaintiffs aren't seeking monetary damages; their primary aim is to address the issues caused by urban camping and hold the city accountable for its legal responsibilities. They do, however, request the court to award attorneys' fees to cover the costs of bringing the lawsuit.
Health and Safety Concerns
Business owners have emphasized the health hazards posed by the presence of urban campers, including piles of garbage and human waste, which constitute a significant public health concern. They contend that the city's proposed urban camping ordinance, which includes a 30-day camping limit and $25 fines for violators, is insufficient and lacks enforcement power.
A Call for Solutions
While business owners have suffered financial losses and mental distress due to urban camping, many express a desire for the city to enforce existing ordinances and find solutions that address the needs of those experiencing homelessness. They advocate for compassion and effective measures that benefit both businesses and the homeless population.
The lawsuit raises essential questions about urban camping policies and their impact on businesses and the community. As the legal proceedings unfold, Bozeman faces the challenge of balancing the interests of all its residents and addressing the complexities of homelessness in urban areas.